Akanksha Kukreti

Gorgeous Sita, dashing Ram and the debonair Ravana – this is the 21st century Ramlila.

The Dusshera season has transformed into a mega cultural affair with huge pandals, good-looking actors, enormous crowd and increasing number of sponsors.

At the Old Delhi’s Luv-Kush Ramlila Committee’s event, the role of Sita is being played by an actor who has an active film career. “The girl playing Sita’s character is working on 14 films right now. She is very busy. We look for the best talents for our Ramlila” says Arjun Kumar Gupta, secretary of Luv-Kush Ramlila Committee. “Most of these actors are already well-employed. They take part in Ramlila as their hobby and passion. That is why they are not paid but organisers take good care of their food and lodging,” he adds.

Vinit Yadav, a 21-year-old panwala from Vrindavan, has been selected to play the role of Laxman in another Ramlila in Delhi. “Around four months back the organisers came to take our audition. I got selected and I am very happy to be here,” says Yadav with a smile.

The 10 days Ramlila ideally begins with a Ganesh Puja and ends with the Rajyabhishek of Lord Rama. “Each day is divided into different episodes. Earlier Ramlila was simple but today it’s a hi-tech affair with more colours in terms of drama, costumes, lights and sounds. Now one can see Akash(sky), Dharti(earth) and Patal(nether world) on a single stage divided in 3 parts,” explains Gupta.

The competition among the Ramlilas has also increased. “Earlier there was no competition. Ramlilas were just Ramlilas and nothing else. Today there are around 1000 such committees in Delhi itself. Moreover many of these performances are organised on a single day. This leads to more competition,” says Gupta.

Yogeshwar Sareen, a 67-year-old, remembers the Ramlila from his childhood days. “In my childhood, we used to go miles to see the performances. The actors were simple and people used to accept them like the Ramayana characters for those 10 days. Today everything has changed. There is a Ramlila taking place in every second street and actors are also more loud, expressive and beautiful .”

It’s not just the performances; there has been a dramatic increase in the security conditions keeping in mind the on-going terror attacks. “In the initial days, the crowd was very less due to blasts which badly affected our business. But as soon as the things got normal, people started flocking to the event enthusiastically,” claims Gupta. According to him, this year Luv-Kush Ramlila Committee’s performance attracted around 1.25 lakh people.

With fast changing social life, the cultural events like Ramlila are bound to see more changes. It will be interesting to watch these changes in the years to come.